Tamil political prisoners in Colombo on hunger strike

[TamilNet, Thursday, 17 September 2009, 16:05 GMT]
Tamil political prisoners arrested on suspicion under Emergency Regulations (ER) and Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), languishing in Magazine Prison and Colombo Remand Prison (CPR) for many years without being produced in the courts, launched a hunger strike from 6:00 a.m Thursday as their requests placed in previous hunger strikes had not been taken into consideration despite promises by legal authorities that their cases will be taken for trial in two months time, sources in Colombo said. The fasting prisoners said the President of Sri Lanka has granted general amnesty to the soldiers who had deserted their posts during the war, in the past few months and hence it would be an easy matter for the President to use his executive powers at least to order to take up our cases immediately for trial as we had only been arrested on suspicion.

The protesting prisoners further said that they believe that all are equal before the law and that they request the President to at least allow them on bail as persons like Daya Master and George who had held important positions in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) organization have been given bail under normal court procedure.

The government which says that the Liberation Tigers have been totally defeated need not hesitate to put us on trial or grant us bail or general amnesty, the protesting prisoners said.

There are around 1600 political prisoners arrested on suspicion throughout the island and kept in various prisons in the country and we are launching this hunger strike in order to draw the attention of the President whom we believe will consider our appeal and the plight of the prisoners favourably, the protestors said.

The political prisoners who had earlier staged hunger strikes 2 to 3 times in the period between 27th to 31st July 2009 had given up the strike on assurances given by legal authorities that their cases will be taken to trial within two months but they had not kept their word and this has forced them to go on hunger strike, they said.

While there are around 250 to 300 political prisoners in Colombo Remand Prison 120 of them are kept in the two divisions of G-cells. The rest of the political prisoners are kept with prisoners found guilty of various other crimes.

The fasting prisoners also said that they called off their hunger strike in one instance where Jaffna Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian Sri Kantha had requested them to give up the strike as TNA parliamentarians were busy with the local government elections for Vavuniyaa and Jaffna saying that they will take up their request with the President soon after the elections.

“We are sad to note that the TNA parliamentarians who had met the President recently to discuss matters related to Tamils had failed to mention our cases,” the prisoners on hunger strike said.

They further pointed out that it is an outright violation of human rights to keep them in the prison, who had been arrested merely on suspicion under ER and PTA, without legal action against them for periods ranging from 3 months to 3 years.

The fasting protestors said that their hunger strike will continue until their requests are considered favourably, without causing inconvenience to their prison authorities.



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